Learning shouldn’t be limited

As part of the Values module in the Education and Social work course, I participated in an activity to do with inequalities. This activity was very insightful into the lives of children which will be experiencing deprivation. We were split into four groups and we were given little information about the end outcome of this activity. Once we had been assigned an envelope with materials inside, we were then asked to come up with an innovative product which would be beneficial to a university student just starting university. At this point we hadn’t realised that everyone was given different materials. Even when we were asked to present our idea to the rest of the groups, we were still clueless that others were given less materials. This explains some of the reasoning behind discrimination and poverty; children experiencing deprivation will be looking at those who aren’t and wondering why they’ve been given this life. Whereas, children which come from wealthy or middle-class families may not have any idea that other children aren’t receiving the same opportunities; which comes with their wealth.

After we had presented our idea, we then went on to creating the idea. As soon as we were scored for the idea we had created and had looked around at the other creations. It became evident that some groups had very few materials. The creations were then marked from 1 being poor to 10 being really good. When the groups were asked to reflect on this activity; some were happy with their efforts due to the lack of materials which they had been given. Others felt it was unfair and they didn’t believe it was right to be marked so low, when they had so little materials to work with. They felt they had been harshly marked and they felt disadvantaged by the activity. This goes to show how a child must feel when they don’t have the correct materials to participate fully. For instance, if a child has been asked to participate in a P.E. lesson and their parent has been unable to afford new trainers. This will result in the child having to come to P.E. with shoes which have holes in them and then they will have to face being ridiculed by their peers. Should income really have such a detrimental effect on the child’s ability to participate or affect their self-esteem.

Throughout the task I began to understand that as a teacher, I will be faced with the effects of the children who don’t have the same opportunities as others. As a future teacher I believe we shouldn’t allow any child to be disadvantaged due to their background which is of no fault of their own. There may be a child who doesn’t turn up on time, or doesn’t understand the lesson first time. It is the teacher’s job to find a way to make learning diverse and ensure each and every pupil is inspired to learn. This means teachers shouldn’t be setting homework tasks online, if the child can’t access the internet at home or any other way. By providing opportunities for all, we are creating a diverse classroom which means that everyone is included. Is it fair that a child’s learning is limited due to their background? I believe not.

This activity was very thought provoking because it changed the way I view society and education. Nobody should be limited due to their status or rather their parent’s status in society. I believe we need to create an equal learning environment for all and not allow any child to feel devalued or demoralised due to their family’s income. Resources such as stationary may need to be provided for the child. From experience I have seen teachers providing the stationary for these pupils. Nothing should be a barrier to a child’s learning or development.

What influences helped me choose a career in teaching?

There are many reasons which could be suggested, some of which are being discussed below.

My interest in teaching first became ignited through Duke of Edinburgh award scheme, where I started volunteering at a local brownie unit which led to moving on to become a young leader. This experience fired my passion to support children to feel like they were part of a friendly organisation and progressed to an Adult leader for both brownies and guides. This has been significant in my journey and thought process behind the reasons to become a primary teacher. It has helped me to develop planning and organisational skills which will be a useful experience when used in this element of teaching. It has improved my confidence and self-belief. Throughout my time as a leader I have had the opportunity to listen to children’s own thoughts on school and this has allowed me to understand that not every child will have a great experience at school. However, I believe that as a teacher we are in a position to change this and I believe that every child should feel like they belong in a school setting.

I then became even more passionate about teaching when I decided to do work placement in a primary school and was influenced greatly by a teacher I met while on work placement. This teacher inspired me and helped me to develop confidence when standing in front of a classroom of children and teaching. She further assisted with my understanding of different elements of the education system and how it’s used in schools. Throughout the time I spent with her I was given the opportunity to teach a small reading group of p1s. I had the chance to teach algebra to a small group of P7s, this went well overall and I was able to reflect and evaluate this session which will enable me to use for future reference. I learned from this that it was harder to get a group of older pupils to listen and be inspired by what your teaching, compared to younger pupils. I then went on to do work placements in other primary schools which helped with the comparison of different teaching methods.

During my time spent in school I had lots of challenges. Experiencing what I perceived as failures with subjects that I wasn’t very comfortable in; one of these being mathematics, which has never been easy for me to understand but with hard work and perseverance I managed to pass. This success improved my self-belief that I can overcome the many obstacle I will encounter. The many teachers that have believed and encouraged me throughout school have been a big part of my decision to become a primary teacher. My maths teacher especially helped with my confidence and is someone who I aspire to be like; she never gave up on helping me to achieve my best. I recognised that this is the career I want to follow due to this experience and her influence. I want to make a difference to other children in the way that she did and continues to do.

After school I then took a year doing a course to become a childhood practitioner. Overall, this was the best decision I had made because it helped with my understanding of education; how it is used throughout nurseries and schools. It improved my overall professional development and I really enjoyed getting to know the placement staff and the children. This experience in placement taught me a lot about learning and development. My written assignment at the end of the course based on literacy helped me understand that children in different areas will need less or more help to thrive. From this experience I learned for instance that, children in more deprived areas will need a little more help with reading, writing and mathematics. This was evident in the findings of my research. From this experience I found out some schools provide drop-in help sessions for parents to understand their child’s needs when it comes to their learning. I learnt that pupils no matter their background, should be encouraged to have the hopes and ambitions to succeed. Teachers are in an influential position to encourage their goals and support the child to achieve their best; whether that be in their education or further in their career.

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Teacher, Lorraine Lapthorne conducts her class in the Grade Two room at the Drouin State School, Drouin, Victoria

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